The Phoney War

Move over Dave and Nick

The countdown to the Olympics has reached T-minus 9 days. In the absence of competitive action, reams and reams of column inches and TV coverage fall on the minutest of stories, turning molehills into mountains. Most of them don’t even relate to sport; the travails of security providers and medium-range weather forecasts particularly subject to the white heat of the press.

The British media is notoriously inclined to focus on the negative rather than reporting on positive tales. A whodunit attitude sells to the public and making scapegoats is a national pastime. Overseas, the coverage of a London Olympics is not so intense (or neurotic) but, for instance, the ABC was yesterday almost gleeful in informing its viewers that London was already suffering organisational mishaps while Sydney 2000 was deemed a wrinkle-free success. This is, of course, a blend of skewed current reporting mixed with some revisionist history.

It is also invariably true that when the action starts, the media and public focus will turn almost exclusively to sporting achievement. There will be no appetite for crass coverage of administrative hiccups while Britain’s sporting heroes take their steps onto the podia. Seb Coe will likely rise to Father of the Nation status as he takes to the airwaves to reflect the glory of Olympic success back on the masses.

Expect the fuzzy creature known as ‘Boris’ to be ubiquitous too. The importance of him winning May’s Mayoral contest will be highlighted as he burnishes his profile expending as much energy as the athletes in speaking for the Games. This could truly turn out to be the starting gun for his aspirations to be PM.

So far, I have tickets for hockey, beach volleyball and football. None of these events really fulfil all of the criteria I look for in an Olympic event. In my mind’s eye, the identikit event fuses amateurism, individualism, and a minority status coupled with a large worldwide playing base. But it’s hard to think of any one event that captures all of these characteristics. The closest would perhaps be the 20km walk, but that’s about as easy on the eye as Boris weightlifting in a leotard.

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